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UPDATE 2-Only two-thirds of COVID cases transferred to English tracing system in latest week

Thu, 8th Oct 2020 11:54

* Glitch delayed tracing of 11,000 positive tests

* Cases see a 56% rise in latest week

* Test and trace chief says turnaround times will improve
(Updates with extra details from health ministry, quote)

By Alistair Smout

LONDON, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Only two-thirds of positive
COVID-19 cases were referred to England's test and trace system
in the latest weekly figures published on Thursday, after
thousands of results were affected by a glitch that delayed
tracing.

The robustness of the test-and-trace system has been again
called into question this week after a technical problem delayed
the upload of nearly 16,000 cases into computer systems,
including for contact tracers.

The health ministry said the error means 11,000 positive
test results that would normally have entered the contact
tracing system in the latest reporting period were delayed until
the next week.

In all, NHS Test and Trace said that 51,475 people tested
positive for COVID-19 between Sept. 24 and Sept. 30, a 56%
increase on the previous week, but only 34,494 people were
transferred to the tracing system in the same week.

The glitch, which was identified on Oct. 2 and reported
publicly two days later, was the latest setback for a test and
trace system which Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised would
be world beating.

Although 74% of those transferred to the system were reached
to provide information about their contacts in the latest weekly
statistics, up from 71.3% the previous week, only 68.6% of
101,782 identified contacted were reached, down from 71.6% and
well below the target of 80%.

Turnaround times for test results also fell in the latest
week, with 60.8% of in-person test results received the next day
after the test was taken, down from 70.6% the previous week.

"As the number of cases rise, so demand for tests continues
to grow. We are working hard to increase testing capacity to
meet that demand and improve turnaround times for tests," Dido
Harding, who runs the test and trace system, said.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Kate Holton and
William James)

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